The visitors gathered on the second floor of the two-floor building for a brief reception and welcoming program. General manager Mike Thomas welcomed guests and discussed the massive operation.
He emphasized the facility near Charleston was Amazon’s first to open in Tennessee, beginning prior to the recent Christmas holidays. He said an order for a pallet of Seventh Generation-brand diapers was the first item to leave the building.
The area where the reception was held is less than one-third of the building’s space, and is being prepared for shelving over the next week or two. The open area emphasizes the largeness of the facility.
Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis and Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland officially welcomed Amazon to the community. State Rep. Kevin Brooks and state Sen. Mike Bell were also in attendance, but Rep. Eric Watson was unable to attend due to a conflict.
Charleston Mayor Walter Goode was also unable to attend.
Rowland, joking about the sheer size of the new center, said Amazon could save the city some money, “If we could put the new Cleveland airport (jetport) on the roof.”
“This is a wonderful turnout,” Thomas said at Monday’s program. “It’s really humbling and I am very pleased.”
Thomas explained the footprint of Amazon’s Bradley County facility is much the same as the company’s facility in Chattanooga. “They only have the smaller shelving in Chattanooga,” he said, adding that many larger items are stored and shipped from the Bradley County location.
“We are humbled by the welcome we’ve received since coming to Bradley County,” Thomas added. “And we also want to thank all our employees.”
The general manager said the company recently converted 100 seasonal employees to full-time and the new facility now has 450 full-time employees.
“We’ve been incredibly busy, and we’re happy to work with local officials in Charleston, Cleveland and Bradley County,” he said. “We were very happy to assist the Charleston-Calhoun Historical Society.”
Amazon gave $5,000 toward the purchase of the new Hiwassee Cultural Center in Charleston, the old Regions Bank Building. The contribution was pivotal in Amazon’s partnership with the Charleston community.
“We’re proud to be forming a lasting partnership with all of Bradley County,” he continued.
Rowland and Davis both questioned what a “Seventh Generation Diaper” is. They were told it is a more environmentally friendly, “green” product.
“We want to thank Amazon for all they’ve done,” said Davis. “They promised 250 jobs, and six months later they’ve almost doubled that (to 450). All Bradley County citizens welcome you and thank you for your decision (to come to Bradley County).”
“This is the type of thing we like to talk about,” added Rowland. “We’re glad you’re here and we look forward to a lot of expansion.”
Rowland later asked Thomas, “Do you sell caskets?” and was surprised when he replied, “Yes we do.”
A handout from Amazon explained much of the company’s commitment to Tennessee. Amazon now has three fulfillment centers in Tennessee, with two more being constructed. The company is creating 3,300 full-time jobs and $270 million in investment.
Amazon’s facilities have nearly 5 million square feet of space, with over 1 million square feet in the new location. More than 1,400 jobs, full-time and seasonal, were created in 2011.
The technology is mind-boggling with more than six miles of fiber optic cable, more than 28 miles of copper wire, and approximately 196 wireless access points. Total storage space in the local facility is more than 20 football fields and the capacity is equal to approximately 67,187 full-size pickup truck beds.
The fulfillment center’s second order to be shipped from the Bradley facility was a Bumbo Baby Seat sent to a customer in South Carolina.
Thomas pointed out many of the products at the local center are sold by individuals and small businesses utilizing Amazon as a platform to manage fulfillment.